You can smell a sandstorm. As I woke this morning, my throat was drier than normal and the smell of dust and sand had crept into my room whilst I was sleeping. I opened my curtains expecting to see the Yellow River out of my window but all I could see was a haze of yellow light.
Sandstorms have been one of the major problems as a result of desertification in China. As the spring winds blow, dry and degraded topsoil is picked up and thrown into the air to be carried in immense clouds of sand and dust.
Each year, the spring sandstorms that plague northern China, originate here in the northern central desert regions of the country. Moving east, the sandstorms descend on China's capital Beijing, shrouding it in a surreal yellow light. In recent years, these same sandstorms have been known to be carried on to South Korea, Japan and even as far as the west coast of the United States.
China has taken great efforts in its fight against sandstorms. Attempts have been made to stabilise soils in the west and China is even attempting to build what is known as the 'Great Green Wall', a belt of trees some 2800 miles long, being planted in an effort to protect the capital.
During what is meant to be sandstorm season, this is my first experience of a full-blown sandstorm since leaving Beijing three weeks ago. As I journey across the country, I have made a point to ask people about the severity and frequency of sandstorms in recent years. The general opinion is that they are decreasing in frequency as a result of the country's efforts to fight desertification. Judging by the severity of this storm and its efficiency in bringing life to a standstill, I can only hope this to be true and their opinions aren't a result of propaganda.
As I continually wipe the dust from my camera equipment, it is hard to imagine how such a powerful force can be tamed. The sand and dust gets everywhere. The sun disappears. I can only move on further, into the yellow cloud that envelops me.